A new movement is sweeping the nation as urbanites are visiting local parks, abandoned fields, alleys and sidewalk cracks searching for their next meal. This guerilla campaign, known as urban foraging, is gaining ground as how-to tours are popping up across metropolitan areas in places like New York City, Washington DC, San Francisco, Seattle and urban cities across Oregon.

While some scoff at the idea of visiting a local park and plucking goodies such as weeds, mushrooms and greens for their nighttime meal, many are jumping on the bandwagon in an effort to increase sustainability and decrease the costs of their grocery store visit.

According to an article from the Baltimore Sun, some noted chefs are even hiring professional foragers to find high-end wild ingredients. The article noted that on a recent urban forager how-to tour, locals found a “large bear’s head tooth mushroom, which can fetch up to $25 per pound at gourmet markets.” However, the point of urban foraging isn’t for the high-end chefs, but the everyday urban resident interested in preserving what is right outside of our doorsteps.

One Portland, Oregon forager is doing just this. According to a blog post from treehugger.com, Becky Lerner also known as Wild Girl is only eating what she can find in and around her city. She was quoted in the article as having said, “because we lost most of our ancestral knowledge when our forefathers destroyed indigenous cultures, modern-day foragers are tasked with salvaging what scraps of information we have left. It is essential that we work together as a community to assemble the pieces.”

But many ask what about the risks of potential toxicity from the pollution surrounding these urban delicacies. According to a blog by National Geographic, “Most of the foragers we have talked to are expressing concerns about toxicity,” said researcher Melissa Poe in the article. It seems many city parks managers and planners aren’t concerned with posting warning signs letting foragers know about the would-be toxins especially since it’s often illegal to be collecting these delectables in city parks. However, it appears that the good outweigh the risks and as of now the movement continues to grow.

-written by Katie Kelley, Social Media Intern, Winter 2011